Over the past couple of years, I have been able to see some home movies my parents had taken when I was younger. We had some of the home movies digitally converted from our family’s old video camera. My younger sibling and I each received a flash drive this past Christmas. Aside from being a fun walk down memory lane, I began to analyze something else in the videos of myself. The videos show how CP can change as you get older.
One of the home videos is of me walking around the house as a toddler in my first lightweight walker. I still have my distinctive scissor gait to this day. According to Flint Rehab, “A scissoring gait is characterized by the knees and thighs pressed together or crossing each other while walking.” High muscular tone (spasticity) in the hip adductors is the cause. The hip adductors are the muscles that pull the thighs together. Internal hip rotation happens due to these muscles’ continued contraction, and the upper part of the legs cannot separate during walking.
As I’ve grown older, Cerebral Palsy has made movement more difficult and fatiguing. According to the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, due to the way CP affects the way people move, people who have cerebral palsy may have to use 3 to 5 times more energy to perform the same amount of work as their peers in terms of effort, persistence, muscle control, and concentration. I can no longer crawl on my hands and knees either. In addition, I rarely spend time on the floor these days except in outpatient therapy. It causes me significant discomfort to be on the floor nowadays.
In one of the videos, I’m sledding with my uncle. Sledding is something that I haven’t been able to enjoy in years. I don’t usually enjoy being outside in the cold long because it worsens my spasticity. Extreme temperatures make moving around much harder than it already is.
For all of the changes my disability has brought, there are some things that remain the same. In many of the home videos you can see that my hands are clenched tightly into fists. This is an infant reflex known as palmar grasp. For me, this reflex never went away. Especially when I am on my back, my hands will still automatically clench into fists. It is difficult for my brain to unlearn this reflex.
It’s not accurate to say that CP won’t change. I wish I had known this earlier. But I’ve always known how tenacious my body is, how resilient it is. It survives and adjusts over time as joints stiffen and muscles tighten. As my CP varies, I adjust. I’m continuously seeking new ways to keep up with my body’s constant changes.
Accardo, P. J., J. A. Accardo, and A. J. Capute. “A neurodevelopmental perspective on the continuum of developmental disabilities.” Capute and Accardo’s neurodevelopmental disabilities in infancy and childhood. 3rd ed. Baltimore: Paul H Brookes (2008): 3-26.
“Scissoring Gait and Cerebral Palsy: Causes, Risks, & Treatment.” Edited by Barbara Brewer, Flint Rehab, Flint Rehab, 26 July 2021, https://www.flintrehab.com/scissoring-gait-cerebral-palsy/.
“Cerebral Palsy AND Post-Impairment Syndrome.” Edited by Gina Jansheski, Cerebral Palsy Guidance, Cerebral Palsy Guidance, 19 Sept. 2020, http://www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/cerebral-palsy/associated-disorders/post-impairment-syndrome/.